Korean Reputation for Heavy Drinking Proved Unfair

      April 12, 2010 09:15

      Koreans are thought to be the world's heaviest drinkers, but a recent OECD report refutes that notion. According to the OECD Health Data 2009, Koreans aged 15 or over consumed an average of 8 liters of alcohol per person in 2007, less than the OECD average of 9.5 liters. Korea ranked 11th among the 16 countries surveyed, while Ireland took first place with 13.4 liters followed by Denmark and the Czech Republic with 12.1 liters.  

      Korea's alcohol consumption has not decreased, and it has never topped the OECD list since it was first included in 1988. In fact the nation's per capita consumption level has never surpassed 10 liters. It peaked at 9.5 liters in 1988 and 1989 and has hovered around 9 liters since, well below the European average of over 10 liters.

      So where does the misperception come from? It derives from an error made in a 1999 World Health Organization report which ranked Korea 2nd in the world with per capita alcohol consumption of 14.4 liters in 1996. But in the WHO statistics, ethyl alcohol concentrated from fermented cereals was mistaken for a kind of alcoholic drink and the delivered quantity of the ingredient (6.8 liters per capita) was counted in the consumption figure.

      But some experts attribute the nation's low ranking to the wide difference in consumption between the genders. As Korean women drink comparatively less alcohol than their male counterparts, the nation's ranking would rise significantly if it measured only men's consumption, they point out.

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